Much like the Brewers, no one had any lofty expectations for the Twins this season. Coming off a season which saw them go 59-103, no one would have picked them as a contender this year. And yet here they are at 82-74, with a magic number that has dropped to four games, ready to fight for a spot in the postseason.
The Twins are coming off a sweep of the Detroit Tigers and are getting hot at exactly the right time. Especially in an AL Wild Card race that is still very much up in the air.
Where Minnesota stands today
It's an off day for the Twins as they make their way to Cleveland to battle the Indians on Tuesday. This three-game series will be anything but easy in the final week of the season and it's not the most favorable schedule to go out on. This made the sweep in Detroit all that more important. They have a 4.5 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels for that Wild Card spot a lead which can easily dwindle if they drop two games in Cleveland. Manager Paul Molitor was quoted saying:
"I think everyone has their expectations to play well and win our share. But we ended up winning four, which was huge with the timing with where we're at."
Interestingly enough, if the Twins manage to secure a playoff spot, and win it, this three-game series could be a preview of an ALDS series. The Tribe is coming off a great stretch, only having won five of their last six games.
The road ahead
Minnesota needs to keep the bats going. Bartolo Colon is starting off the series against Josh Tomlin. And while he hopes to keep things moving for the Twins, he's not the elder ace he was with the New York Mets the previous year. Tomlin is coming off a recent DL stint so there could be an opportunity for the Twins to capitalize on offense as he continues to mend. The bright side is that they won't have to face Cory Kluber, who is coming off his 18th win of the season and shows no signs of slowing down.
While the Twins are in Ohio, the Angels won't be far away for a four-game series in the Second City. There's no doubt that the Angels have the easier road ahead. But if the Chicago White Sox can pull off an upset by taking three of four or even splitting the series, it would put far less pressure on the Twins to make sure they come out on top against the Indians.
No matter how you look at it, it's going to be an uphill battle for the Twins. There's only so much that can be done in a wildcard race, and the rest is up to the baseball gods to smile down favorably upon your team.